The very fact that Jeremiah was outside the country in the company of the king’s daughters, the only apparent successors to the Davidic throne, with a commission “to build and to plant” should give us pause. This was no mere coincidence—especially when we consider the unbreakable covenant God had made with David.
God had even said that if the Jewish remnant stayed in Judah as He told them to, He would have used Jeremiah to replant and build up the kingdom right where they were (Jeremiah 42:10 Jeremiah 42:10If you will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done to you.
American King James Version×). But, as we’ve seen, they instead went to Egypt—where God had explicitly said not to go.
So now that they were being driven out of Egypt, where would Jeremiah go at this time with the king’s daughters? They weren’t supposed to be where they were. And indeed, it is quite possible that they had already left Egypt even prior to Hophra’s death. In either case, to where did they travel?
No longer would God rebuild the kingdom in Judah—as the people had violated the terms of this offer by fleeing to Egypt.
Moreover, Judah or any other land under Babylonian dominion would seem a highly unlikely choice. If Nebuchadnezzar had not known about the king’s daughters before, he certainly did now. News undoubtedly reached him of their being placed under special guard and care by his enemy, Pharaoh Hophra. And even Jeremiah himself, who had previously been accorded favor by the Babylonian invaders of Jerusalem, would now be mistakenly perceived as an accomplice of Hophra.
Furthermore, we know the throne was not replanted in Judah because the Bible gives us information about the Jewish homeland during the time of the captivity. And when the captives later return from Babylon, it is obvious that there is no Jewish king reigning over anyone there. Thus, while Jeremiah and the royal daughters may have briefly passed through Judah at this time, they did not resettle there.
So did they hide out in a cave in obscurity for the rest of their lives? Or, more reasonably, did they settle down somewhere with their important status acknowledged by others? And if so, was it somewhere that the prophet could fulfill his commission?
Jeremiah himself provides us with a powerful clue. He had earlier prophesied that from his time forward, David would “never lack a man [i.e., a person] to sit on the throne of the house of Israel” (Jeremiah 33:17 Jeremiah 33:17For thus said the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel;
American King James Version×). This verse is crucial to understanding the whole subject. Read it again. Notice—it does not say Judah, but rather the house of Israel, which had gone into captivity around 150 years before. So from Jeremiah’s time on, David would never lack a descendant to reign over, again, not Judah but Israel. Incidentally, those who see this as just a prophecy of Christ’s future reign should realize that it then speaks of “rulers” from David’s line (Jeremiah 33:26 Jeremiah 33:26Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.
American King James Version×)—not just a singular “Ruler.” What this is telling us is that the throne of David had to somehow be transferred to Israel at the time of Jeremiah!
Through the prophet Ezekiel, contemporary with Jeremiah, God fills in more details. Prior to Jerusalem’s fall, he posed a riddle to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 17:2 Ezekiel 17:2Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel;
American King James Version×)—again, not Judah—which He afterward explained. “A great eagle … came to Lebanon and took from the cedar the highest branch” (Ezekiel 17:3 Ezekiel 17:3And say, Thus said the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, long winged, full of feathers, which had divers colors, came to Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar:
American King James Version×). Meaning: “The king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and took its kings and princes” (Ezekiel 17:12 Ezekiel 17:12Say now to the rebellious house, Know you not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and has taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon;
American King James Version×). Then: “He cropped off the top of his young twigs” (Ezekiel 17:4 Ezekiel 17:4He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffic; he set it in a city of merchants.
American King James Version×, KJV). Meaning: “And he took of the king’s offspring” (Ezekiel 17:13 Ezekiel 17:13And has taken of the king’s seed, and made a covenant with him, and has taken an oath of him: he has also taken the mighty of the land:
American King James Version×).
Having explained these symbols, God, through Ezekiel, gave the following clear parable: “I will take also [a sprig, NRSV] of the highest branches [Zedekiah and princes] of the high cedar [Judah] and set it out. I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs [Zedekiah’s children] a tender one [female], and will plant it on a high and prominent mountain [a great kingdom]. On the mountain height [top of the kingdom—the throne] of Israel [not Judah!] I will plant it; and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort [all manner of peoples] … And all the trees of the field [nations of the earth] shall know that I, the LORD, have brought down the high tree [Judah] and exalted the low tree [Israel]” (Ezekiel 17:22-24 Ezekiel 17:22-24 22 Thus said the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it on an high mountain and eminent:
23 In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.
24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done it.
American King James Version×).
Here, then, is what the latter part of Jeremiah’s commission was all about. Remarkably, he must have been responsible for transplanting the throne of David to Israel by taking a daughter of King Zedekiah to the 10 lost tribes. Yet where did the Israelites live at this time?